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Support for English Learners in Distance Learning Environments: Blog Series

In contrast to the in-school learning experience, school closure to student attendance presents a greater challenge for English Learners (ELs), largely due to the inability to access content by way of physical interaction with teachers and peers. Also, our students might experience stress related health issues related to the lack of connection with teachers, staff and peers at school, and limited access to Internet and devices. 

The Multilingual & Humanities Education Department recognizes that the need to support ELs is greater than ever; therefore, our goal is to help administrators and teachers focus on the most critical support for ELs and all students by sharing our top recommendations of available resources on the Internet. We also want to extend an invitation to educators to share their best practices in this blog. If you are interested please contact Dr. Yee Wan, Director of Multilingual & Humanities Education Department. 

Thank you,
Dr. Yee Wan

May 18
3 Tips on How to Support Content Instruction for English Learners in Distance Learning

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the webinar on Support for Distance Learning: The History–Social Science and English Language Arts/English Language Development Frameworks. It was packed with useful information. Here are three key learnings with resources from the English learner support lens.

Build, but not from scratch: The shelter-in-place circumstances may make the introduction of new content difficult. Consider ways to amplify and broaden learning that will allow students to practice, refine and master skills that they learned during the first part of the school year while at home. Here are some ideas of ELD activities for language practice that you can use or adapt.

Teach the students, and reach the child: It is important that educators acknowledge that the challenges of distance learning are ongoing, and that teachers and students mutually feel them. Consider how established classroom routines can be modified for distance learning. If possible, maintaining these routines, even in an adapted form, will help provide structure and a sense of normalcy for students. Also, providing the language practice opportunities at home validates the students' home experience, lowers the affective filter and fosters relationships with family members.

Redefine, when necessary: Create flexible parameters that redefine engagement, participation, and daily schedule. What could the “new normal" look like? Educators might use fun games to engage students during virtual class sessions. Furthermore, educators might need to interact with students and their families through a variety of means such as the U.S. mail, phone calls, emails, what's app, parent networks, food distribution locations, etc. The length of time and frequency of synchronous sessions might vary depending on circumstances.


The History–Social Science and English Language Arts/English Language Development Frameworks webinar will be posted at the California Department of Education's COVID-19 Webinars webpage.

ELD Activities for Language Practice at Home, Tulare County Office of Education

Distance Learning Planning Models, Dr. Molly McCabe, ELA/ELD Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee Co-lead  ​​

May 11
3 Considerations for Inclusivity and Support within Designated English Language Development in Remote Learning

In response to COVID-19's shift from face-to-face instruction to distance learning, the Designed ELD Workgroup within the CISC ELA/ELD Subcommittee with representatives from across the state developed the Considerations for Inclusivity and Support within Designated English Language Development in Remote Learning tool to help teachers to focus on high-priority practices for Designated ELD in a distance learning setting. Teachers can use this tool in planning, delivering, and reflecting upon distance learning lessons in an effort to maintain, sustain, and improve Designated ELD practice. The tool is organized around these three overarching ideas, the 3 Ls:

  1. Connect with Learners - Engage learners in genuine ways to promote social and academic wellness

  2. Connect with Learning - Make meaningful connections to bridge language practice with the content students are learning across the subject areas. Teachers can use or adapt ELD lesson template examples to establish rituals and familiar routines to lower the affective filter.

  3. Connect with Language - Establish a focus for language learning and practice that meets students at their proficiency levels

To access this resource, visit I would like to acknowledge the collaborators of this Designated ELD Workgroup.

Linda Korff-Reis, Kings COE

Malane Morales-Van Hecke, Los Angeles COE

Dora Ann Salazar, Monterey COE

Richard Romero, Orange County DE

Tracy Wilson, Placer COE

Molly McCabe, Ed.D., Riverside COE

Izela Jacobo, San Diego COE

Carlos Pagán, Santa Barbara COE

Deedy Camarena, Santa Clara COE

Yee Wan, Ed.D., Santa Clara COE

Alethea Vazquez, Tehama County DE

Alesha Ramirez, Tulare COE

May 05
3 Tips for Planning Designated English Language Development (ELD) Lessons in Distance Learning

In the past two weeks, I have attended several webinars on designated ELD instruction in distance learning. I noticed these patterns in the designated ELD weekly plans.

  1. Offering both synchronous (real-time virtual interaction) and asynchronous activities (not-in-real-time virtual interaction).

  2. Focusing the synchronous learning time on oral language skill development through modeling, applying language through interaction with peers and teachers, and negotiating meaning

  3. Providing choices for the learning activities

These are several examples that you can explore:

  • Template for using mentor sentences to teach designated ELD in K-5, created by Leslie Hyatt at Bell Gardens Elementary School, Montebello Unified School District

  • Sample elementary designated ELD lesson plan, created by Deedy Camarena, Santa Clara County Office of Education

  • Designated ELD in TK-12, created by Sanger Unified School District

  • Designated ELD in 6-12

    • dELD Weekly Plan and d.ELD Distance Learning Choice Board, developed by Efraín Tovar, Abraham Lincoln Middle School, Selma Unified School District

    • San Juan Unified School District developed distance learning weekly lesson plans that are aligned to the ELPAC task types and are organized by the four language domains. The weekly plan also includes a culminating task. To access the resources, visit

I hope that you will be able to adapt these templates in planning your dELD lessons for English learners.


Apr 28
3 Tips to Keep Newcomer English Learners Engaged in Distance Learning Environments

Newcomer English learners are facing greater challenges during school campus closures than their peers; having to unpack emails, navigate the technology tools, comprehend directions for assignments are just a few.  Transitioning to distance learning could be overwhelming because newcomer students tend to rely heavily on non-verbal and visual clues to make meaning in their learning. Additionally, many students have limited or no access to Internet, Wi-Fi or a technology device.

I was reading about what some teachers are doing, so am sharing some ideas that teachers of newcomers might consider:

  1. Connect with newcomer students and their families: Remember that not all students have access to online learning platforms. Depending on the grade level of the student, teachers might connect with the parent or guardian by phone first and then with the student. Once initial contact has been established, schedule mutually agreed upon times to connect with students several times a week. Prior to the call, determine what are the most essential language skills that you would like to teach, coach or practice with your students. When setting up meetings, include call-ins from a landline or cell phone.

  2. Be responsive by asking your newcomer students for a list of topics that they would like to learn about and integrate their interests into language learning activities. Share stories of inspiration and affirmations with students.

  3. Create assignments that could leverage resources from home, be self-directed or require minimal support. For example, watch educational programs from the public broadcasting stations such as KQED TV and PBS shows. Remind students to read as much as possible. They can read in their native language or in English. You can provide hard copies of the reading materials or refer them to websites.   You might include family members in the assignment such as having the students share what they have learned with their family members.

    Website: Newcomers at Grade Level and Beyond

Apr 23
3 Tips for Engaging English Learners in Distance Learning Environments

By now, many teachers have engaged their students with various types of distance learning. However the question remains, how can teachers specifically engage English Learners effectively?

Based on our team’s research, we recommend the following:

  1. Connect with your students through care and compassion – Reach out to see how your students and their families are doing. Educators can work cohesively with parents, guardians and/or caregivers to fill in space for creative learning during this time. You might also ask families if they need help connecting with community resources. In addition to sending individual emails/messages or making calls, you can also schedule a weekly check-in conference call with all or selected students and/or families. 

  2. Schedule drop in hours  – Offer multiple options for how and when students can connect with you such as phone call, email or Facetime. Students are likely to reach out for support when there is flexibility and space for them to express their feelings.   

  3. Support for language access – When designing live or recorded video lessons, you can make learning visible by speaking clearly and providing models or examples to scaffold the key concepts, including photos, illustrations, YouTube videos, primary language, etc...

For more information on this topic, check out: 

Larry Ferlazzo’s 7 Tips for Remote Teaching in YouTube. March 31, 2020. Larry Ferlazzo is a high school teacher at Luther Burbank High School, Sacramento, CA. 

Supporting multilingual learners (MLLs)/English language learners during the COVID-19 Shutdown, The Education Trust, March 2020

Yee Wan, Ed.D.

Director, Multilingual and Humanities Education
(408) 453-6825
@MET_SCCOE and @WanYwan
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